Pandemic Preparedness: An End to Fake News and Call to Action


Dismissing COVID-19 as a hoax is an affront to the millions who suffered and died while ignoring the critical recommendations for future pandemic preparedness is not just short-sighted  but amounts to an invitation for history to repeat itself with potentially even more devastating consequences, writes  Special Correspondent of The Botswana Gazette DOUGLAS RASBASH


The COVID pandemic was arguably the biggest challenge of the Masisi administration. Having only just been elected in November 2019, the new team was hit by an issue that affected the entire world.

In Botswana there were 329,758 positive tests of COVID, resulting in 2,801 deaths. The number of vaccine doses administered in the country was 3,171,366 while the number of people who received at least one dose was 1,931,675 or 82.14%, virtually all adults.


Despite this, there appears to be growing movement by the malfeasant band of conspiranoids that COVID-19 was a massive fraud hatched by vested interests. (Before proceeding, readers may ask what or who is a “conspiranoid.” This term effectively conveys the idea of people who adhere rigidly to conspiracy theories in a way that feels almost robotic or irrational, making it suitable for describing anti-vaxxers and COVID deniers).

The notion that COVID-19 and the COVAX initiative were hoaxes engineered to profit pharmaceutical companies is not only preposterous but dangerously ignorant. As we move past the immediate crisis, society’s collective amnesia about the pandemic’s devastating impact and the subsequent critical learnings is deeply concerning.


Firstly, let us debunk the hoax claims with unequivocal evidence. COVID-19, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, is a global health crisis that resulted in over 6 million confirmed deaths and countless more unreported. The catastrophic economic, social and psychological toll of the pandemic is indisputable. Hospitals were overwhelmed, economies crippled and countless families plunged into mourning.


The speed at which vaccines were developed and deployed was a monumental scientific achievement, not a conspiracy. COVAX, a global initiative co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and the World Health Organisation (WHO), aimed to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.


Far from being a profit-making scheme for “Big Pharma,” COVAX was a lifeline for low- and middle-income countries that would otherwise have been left behind in the vaccine race. The initiative has delivered over a billion doses worldwide, preventing countless deaths and curbing the virus’s spread. In total, over 14 billion doses of vaccines were administered worldwide.


The allegations that vaccinations were a hoax to enrich pharmaceutical companies ignore the rigorous testing, peer-reviewed studies and the unprecedented transparency in vaccine development and approval processes. Vaccines underwent multiple phases of clinical trials involving tens of thousands of participants. The emergency used authorisations and subsequent full approvals were based on extensive data proving their efficacy and safety. Independent health authorities globally, including the US FDA and the European Medicines Agency, provided stringent oversight.

Collective effort

Moreover, the lion’s share of funding for vaccine research came from public sources, non-profits, and international coalitions rather than from the companies themselves. This public-private partnership model exemplified how collective effort and collaboration can address global challenges.


Further fake news that millions died after receiving the vaccination is equally fallacious. For those suggesting many died from the vaccines, recorded immediate global post-vaccination morbidity was 58,000, which equates to 4 per million, much lower than other vaccines – anaphylaxis after receipt of both vaccines were reported as 4.5 reported cases per million doses administered.


As the pandemic’s acute phase recedes, the report from the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, which outlined essential recommendations to bolster global health security, seems to have faded into oblivion. This complacency is perilous. The report highlighted critical areas: improving surveillance systems, strengthening health infrastructure, ensuring swift and equitable vaccine distribution, and fostering international cooperation.

Equitable access to healthcare

The failure to implement these recommendations leaves us vulnerable to future pandemics. The world cannot afford to ignore the lessons learned at such a high cost. Strengthening global health systems, investing in research and development and ensuring equitable access to healthcare resources is imperative. Governments and international bodies must act with urgency to institutionalise these changes.


In attempt to resurrect interest a new report just released called “No Time to Gamble: Leaders Must Unite to End Pandemics” was launched on Tuesday 18 June (yesterday) by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Helen Clark, former co-chairpersons of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response. Let us once again thankfully reflect on the amazing response by the Minister of Health, Dr Edwin Dikoloti, and his team to contain the pandemic in Botswana. While the electorate may prefer to forget COVID and confine it to history, the stark reality is that the need for preparedness has not diminished.

Dismissing COVID-19 as a hoax is an affront to the millions who suffered and died. The vaccines saved lives, and COVAX was a testament to global solidarity. Ignoring the critical recommendations for future pandemic preparedness is not just shortsighted; it is an invitation for history to repeat itself with potentially even more devastating consequences. Society must reject these baseless hoax claims and demand immediate action to safeguard our future.